Early this morning, I woke to the radio. The sun, nearly at its most reclusive, was still two hours from its rising so the room was dark. The first story was about the return of two Canadians held hostage for nearly two years in Somalia. What did they hold on to in all that time to keep themselves intact, I wondered? I must have dozed because the next story was a young British Muslim journalist talking about the holiest of Muslim shrines in Mecca, a black stone. You can see an image here as well as (thanks to the wonders of technology) listen to the original program.
The journalist describes himself as a "cultural navigator", which is more apparent for those of us like myself operating outside our original homes or a step out of mainstream culture--for whatever reason.
In good documentary fashion, the journalist interviews architects and spiritual guides who discuss the virtue of simplicity in helping us get to that spiritual place. On a personal note, he talks about the contrast between the simplicity of prayer and spirituality and the jangle of people and noise in the everyday world. He concludes that it is not so much the place that we need to help us be centered but something that we find/learn/cultivate within ourselves.
In my sleep-state mind, I stitched these stories together with the shipping forecast and as I fell asleep to the familiar recitation of "Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire....." this photograph came into my mind.
I recently wrote about Emily Dickinson in my newspaper column. When I first discovered her poetry I was an adolescent and full of rebellion and a fondness for half-understood transcendental concepts. Emily Dickinson became a recluse late in life rarely leaving the house and her garden. When chided about not attending church, which in her 19th century New England town was certainly a social requirement, she wrote emphatically about nature as her chapel.
I sat with a friend yesterday overlooking the bay from the window of her studio. She was worrying for me because I have for some time been lumping along like a wheel out of true. "Un-centred" she called it. She talked about ways of getting that centre back.
All those threads wove in and out of my mind as I listened to the programs this morning. I thought about the times when I have found that stillness and insight that come from profound stillness--on a labyrinth in New Harmony before my wedding day, in the middle of dance floor, singing in a familiar church, singing in a strange church, and walking.
Although my favourite is to walk in the wide open spaces here, I can also find that peacefulness in a cityscape. The black square with its stark geometry is a stunning vehicle for the necessary separation from the hum drum, but I dubbed the photo above "moss universe". Studying that wee universe with its complexity, elegance, and independence, was a pilgrimage of sorts.